Senior sets her sights on a successful season

Women’s track team will begin competition on March 4


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Senior Reese Sanders has one more year to compete for the Irish before she heads to Notre Dame.

The women’s track and field team won the team State championship last June, the first in school history. The team had many accomplishments, including a 4×400-meter State championship, a fourth-place finish in the 4×100 meters and a fourth-place finish in the 100 meters by Alexis Parchman ‘21. 

However, the greatest of these accomplishments was one that may have pushed the team over the top: when junior Reese Sanders won the 300-meter hurdles, becoming an individual State champion. 

Sanders was a huge contributor to that State championship team, winning the 300-meter hurdles and being a part of that 4×400-meter relay team that won State. She also finished third in the 100-meter hurdles. 

This year, as a senior, Sanders is hoping to help the team repeat as champions before heading off to run at Notre Dame.

As a member of a historically athletic family, it should be no surprise that Reese has had great success athletically during her high school career. Her older sister and brother, Olivia Sanders and Luke Sanders, all ran track for the Irish as well. Luke also went on to play collegiate football as a wide receiver and tight end at Western Michigan University, graduating from WMU in 2021. 

Reese said she believes that some of her love for running, and specifically hurdling, came from her family. She said, “My mom was a really good hurdler in high school and my (siblings) Luke and Olivia were elite hurdlers, too.”

Reese attended St. Pius X throughout elementary and middle school and began running competitively when she was in fourth grade. She said, “I started running because my mom was the coach (at St. Pius X) and some of my siblings ran, too. My mom was the one to get me into hurdling in sixth grade.”

When Reese came to the Hill, she was already known by Head Coach Mr. John O’Hara ‘02 and the staff. She said, “I met Coach O’Hara in eighth grade, because he was the coach when my sister and brother were running for Cathedral.” 

As a freshman, Reese immediately began running varsity, and she achieved some success. According to Sanders, this was the time when she realized that she had the opportunity to compete in college. Sanders said, “I knew I had a chance to run track in college after my freshman year. I placed seventh in the state as a freshman with a time that was elite for how young I was.”

O’Hara first began to see this Division I level potential around the same time colleges started to reach out to Sanders at the beginning of her junior year. He said, “Early last year, when she started to put up some times that were on par with being able to be a Division I athlete, but at the same time having the grades and the extracurriculars and the other types of things associated that you need.”

It was at this time when emails from college coaches across the country flooded Sanders’ inbox, all wanting her to run for their school. She said, “(Those schools included) almost all the Big Ten schools, a lot of schools from the (Atlantic Coast Conference) and a couple from the (Pacific 12 Conference).” 

She received numerous offers, including from Minnesota, Clemson, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois, but she eventually focused on five schools. “I narrowed down my decision based on location, size of the school and conference, and after talking with all the coaches and their level of interest. My top five were (the University of Colorado) Boulder, Duke, Notre Dame, University of Virginia and University of North Carolina.”

On her decision to choose Notre Dame, Sanders said, “I love what the university is about. Notre Dame gave me the family feel and it reminded me a lot of Cathedral.” She also added that Notre Dame will not only provided her a chance to grow athletically but academically and spiritually as well. 

However, before she heads off to South Bend, Reese has one last season to make her mark on the record board hanging in the Welch Activity Center. And she has many goals in order to make that happen.

“For indoor season, my goal is to win state in the 60-meter hurdles. I also want to qualify for Nationals in New York for the pentathlon. Outdoor, my goals are to break 42 seconds in the 300-meter hurdles and to win State in that race again. I also have the goal of breaking 14 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles and win State in that. And breaking the outdoor 800-meter school record.”

Sanders competed in the pentathlon in late January at the Tom Hathaway Distance Classic at the University of Indianapolis. It is comprised of the 60-meter hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and the 800-meter. She scored a 3,625, good for top five among U.S. high schoolers as of Jan. 30.

Sanders’ personal goals align with O’Hara’s for the team this spring. He said, “We want to contend for (the) City title, (the) Sectional titles, and get as many athletes as far as we can in the (State meet).”

The team is schedule to compete in its first meet on March 4 at the University of Indianapolis.